Five tech-savvy hotel amenities
Hong Kong’s Hotel ICON encourages its guests to download their free, multi-language iPhone and iPad app.
When it comes to technology, most hotels haven’t kept pace with travellers, who increasingly find electronic gadgets to be indispensible.
Travellers worldwide tote three or four portable devices on average, reports a recent survey by Sheraton Hotels. And in the US specifically, a study by Google finds that travellers are using devices about 20% of the time they’re on the road -- more than double the rate from 2009.
Despite these trends, many hotels have been half-hearted in rolling out sufficient digital services, such as free, single sign on wi-fi that conforms to industry security standards, and power strips with widely spaced sockets to accommodate large chargers and adaptors.
Not all the news is bad on the technology front, though. In the past couple of years, some forward-thinking hotels have outpaced the industry with tech-savvy amenities and innovations that make life on the road a little easier.
An app for ordering room service
Hong Kong’s year-old, 262-room Hotel ICON encourages its guests to download their free, multi-language iPhone and iPad app, which allows guests to order room service, set a wakeup call or check out from their own smartphone.
Bedside headphone jacks
The Palm, a two-year-old Dubai outpost of the One&Only luxury resort brand, installed headphone jacks next to each bed, so that a guest can continue to watch TV without disturbing his or her dozing partner. Guests who forget their own earphones can borrow a pair from reception.
Stronger wi-fi signals
Sometimes the thick, multiple walls of large buildings can weaken wireless Internet signals, resulting in slow or non-existent connections. Other times, a hotel is located in a skyscraper and its top floors are too high up to receive cellular data service. Both these problems afflicted the Mandarin Oriental New York until this year, when it installed a wi-fi access point in each of the 248 guest rooms, replacing the single access point per floor that it had previously relied on. The Mandarin Oriental chain says it is also adding this amenity to all of its other properties.
Plug your electronics into the TV
The Hyatt Plug Panel, which allows guests to connect (or re-charge) popular electronic devices like laptops and portable game players with each room’s 42in, flat-screen, high-definition TV, first debuted in 2007. But it only recently became a standard amenity in all 165 Hyatt Place hotels and about half of the 54 Hyatt House extended-stay properties in North America, the Middle East and southwest Asia. It’s up to guests, however, to bring appropriate direct-to-TV cables.
Kindles on loan
For decades, hotels across the globe have stocked their bedside tables with Gideon Bibles. This summer, the Hotel Indigo Newcastle in Newcastle, England, switched the iconic hardbacks for Kindle e-readers loaded with an e-book of the Bible. In a two-week experiment, guests were able to request a £5 credit to download a text of any other faith. Today, you can use the devices to download any e-book from Amazon and have the charge added to your room bill, and those who have their own Kindles can borrow the hotel’s charging cords to juice them up.
Power strips with international plugs
Some hotels in cities that draw heavy international traffic, such as Dubai and Singapore, lend out adapters, which enable guests to connect a plug whose prongs are designed for one country into a hotel’s foreign outlets. Yet many travellers still dream of universal sockets, which would dispense electricity without the need for an adapter. Leading the industry in that direction is Beijing’s East Hotel, a boutique space that opened last month, and its nearby, two-year-old partner hotel, The Opposite House. Each has rooms that offer an array of power points accommodating all types of prong shapes, including plugs from North America, Europe and Asia.
Sean O’Neill is the travel tech columnist for BBC Travel